How To Become A Zoologist

If animals and wildlife, their behavior and the ecosystems where they live in fascinate you, then a career as a zoologist could be something you will enjoy. In this profession, you will have the opportunity to study animals, their physical traits, behavior and the effect that human beings and their activities have on them and their habitats.

You will study what diseases they are prone to, their reproduction and population dynamics, migratory patterns and interactions with other animals. Just like any scientist, you will keep a detailed record of your observations.

Part of your job will be to conduct experiments and tests both in their natural surroundings and in controlled environments. You will gather data and specimens so that these can be studied and analyzed further in the laboratory.

For instance, you will obtain samples of blood of the animals you are observing to determine if they are healthy or are suffering from any disease. Another way to gather data would be to tag animals so that they can be tracked in their natural habitat. This is now made possible through the use of geographic information systems and special computer software and programs.

In addition to tracking animals, these advanced computer systems also allow zoologists to predict the possible threats to a particular species and forecast the distribution of potentially invasive plant and animal life.

As a zoologist, you will be conducting a lot of research throughout your career. You will detail your findings in research papers and reports published in various journals as well as disseminate it through presentations in conferences, lectures and seminars with different kinds of audiences. The research you do will often be used by public officials to formulate conservation plans for those species that are under threat.

It will also be made as a basis for wildlife management programs that aim to make animal populations become sustainable once again. You may also do research to gain a better understanding of a particular species.

Depending on your area of interest, you may opt to specialize by studying only a particular species. For instance, you can confine your study to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals as a cetologist or to that of snakes, frogs and other reptiles and amphibians as a herpetologist. You can focus on entomology or the study of insects, on ichthyology or the study of fish or on ornithology or the study of birds. You may even specialize by studying animals that live in a particular habitat. Marine biologists, for example, study animals living in saltwater.

Critical thinking is important for zoologists because you need to derive conclusions from your scientific observations and experiments. This must also come together with good communication skills since you will be coming up with scientific papers and giving talks to different audiences.

During field work, you could be left on your own with minimal contact with other people. As such, you need to be emotionally prepared to handle this kind of stress. Caring for injured animals can also be a draining experience so you need to be able to manage this well. The nature of your work also necessitates that you should possess the skills to survive in the outdoors. This means that you should know how to swim, chop wood and navigate unforgiving terrain.

Why Become A Zoologist

There are many reasons to become a zoologist. One of the most important ones is that it gives you the chance to work with animals and wildlife. If you love the outdoors and want a career that gives you excitement and action then working as a zoologist would certainly be a dream job. It also enables you to work towards the conservation and management of species that are close to dying out because of hunting and the encroachment of humans in their natural habitats.

If you love teaching, you can also get the chance to share your knowledge and passion to high school and college students if you are a zoologist. As you advance in your career, you may also lead teams to conduct research on topics that are close to your heart.

Zoologist Work Environment

Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2012, zoologists and wildlife biologists worked with state governments, federal government and in the research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences field. They were also employed in management, scientific and technical consulting services companies; universities, colleges and professional schools and local governments.

Zoologists spend a lot of time outdoors in different kinds of environment and weather when doing fieldwork. This can be challenging and dangerous since most of the locations where they will be going to have no modern amenities. Their work can take them to deserts, forests, mountains and oceans.

Zoologist Salary

According to the Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of zoologists and wildlife biologists in May 2013 is $62,610. The agency reported in 2012 that zoologists and wildlife biologists working with the federal government received the highest pay at $72,700 followed by those in research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences who got $59,670.

The other industries where these professionals got the highest pay were with local governments; management, scientific and technical consulting services; colleges, universities and professional schools and state governments.

Average Zoologist Annual Salary


The average annual salary for zoologists is $66,250 a year. Salaries start at $39,620 a year and go up to $99,700 a year.

Average Zoologist Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a zoologist is $31.85. Hourly wages are between $19.05 and $47.93 an hour.

Stats were based out of 17,710 employed zoologists in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Zoologists

Top Paying Cities For Zoologists

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Zoologist Career Outlook

The career outlook for zoologists and wildlife biologists is going to grow slower than average for all job types at a rate of 5 percent. Job opportunities exist because they will be needed to look at the effects of an increasing population to wildlife and their habitats.

Federal agencies like the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will need them to research and come up with wildlife management and conservation plans to help safeguard the world’s biological resources. However, the number of zoologists that these agencies will employ will depend on their budgets.

Zoologist Degree

A bachelor’s degree in zoology, ecology, wildlife biology or related field is needed for entry-level positions. For higher-level positions, a master’s degree is often required. For those who want to conduct independent research or teach at the university level, a doctoral degree is a must.

In addition, they also need to have knowledge about statistical software and computer programs since they will use geographic information systems and other sophisticated programs to carry out their work successfully. Getting more education is needed to advance in the field and do research on topics that they are passionate about.

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